Behind the smiles and jokes, the school’s lone band, orchestra and piano teacher was masking her sadness and frustration. Thomas spent the last two months fighting for her job at Bates, a K-8 school on Detroit’s northwest side.
Thomas said Bates Principal David Bailey notified her April 12 that she would be leaving Bates at the end of the school year and transferring to another school in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Thomas believes she’s being reassigned over too many absences throughout the year, absences the teacher said are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that affords employees unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons. Thomas said she takes FMLA time each year to care for her 10-year-old son with disabilities, but needed to take a six-week leave for herself earlier this year due to health reasons.
“Why would you take away a program that’s highly successful?” Thomas said. “We’re one of the premier schools.”
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